Watch F-16 Autopilot System Save The Life Of An Unconscious Pilot With Seconds To Spare

For most of us, a bad day at the office might mean a slow internet, a grumpy boss or just lack of sleep from the night before. But for the military men, especially from the Air Force, this might spell utter doom and disaster.
This notion has perhaps never been emphasized before as clearly as by the recently declassified video footage from the US Air Force, recording the moment when an F-16 test pilot was about to crash.
The video shows a trainee pilot pass out due to G-LOC – which is short for g-force induced loss of consciousness. F-16 hits about 8.3G (in g-forces), and for a typical person,  about 5G is enough to make him unconscious. Although a fighter pilot can sustain about 9G, but that day 8.3G proved to be too much for the trainee.
Pic Credits: f-16
Pic Credits: f-16
Fortunately for the pilot, the F-16’s Auto-GCAS (Ground Collision Avoidance System) stepped in before the plane crashed, and took over the controls to prevent a fatal accident.
The pilot, with the call sign of Ocho was flying in the US south-west as part of a training exercise on May 5 when the incident occurred. He was flying along with his instructor in a separate F-16 when G-force got the better of the pilot, and the jet began to steeply nose-dive towards the desert.

“I started to roll and started to pull and I’m following [the instructor pilot] with my eyes. The next thing I remember is just waking up and hearing ‘recover’. It happened so fast. Usually, most people get tunnel vision that gradually comes in. That’s what I always get, but that day I didn’t get anything.” Ocho said.

As apparent from the video, within 20 seconds the F-16 plummeted from an altitude of 17,000 feet to under 9,000 feet. It was still going down until the Auto-GCAS took effect, which pulled the jet out of a terrible accident with only seconds to spare. The later analysis showed that the aircraft got as low as 4,300 feet before the control were taken over by the safety system.

“Recover, Recover” was the yell from the instructor, Major Luke O’Sullivan from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 152nd Fighter Squadron, to his trainee as his plane was heading for an unfortunate disaster until the system kicked in.

The technology has been developed after nearly 30 years of research and testing by NASA, the Air Force, and Lockheed Martin. Auto-GCAS triggers itself on by comparing the trajectory of the aircraft to a terrain profile generated from plane’s terrain elevation data. As soon as the system predicts the two trajectory’s collision, it takes over the plane controls and initiates an automatic recovery by moving the craft upwards with a 5G pull until the data states that the plane is in control again.

Pic Credits: f-16
Pic Credits: f-16

Commander of the 416th Flight Test Squadron, Lt. Col. Chris Keithley said, “To date, this technology has saved four pilots’ lives in training and combat. This means their families didn’t lose a husband, father, son or brother. It’s a huge win, and I can’t overstate how meaningful it is.”

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